Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Akapana Pyramid - historical survival practises

Akapana pyramid. Tiwanaku, Bolivia. The temple complex was surrounded by cities/towns. At 14,000 feet elevation it was too cold to grow sufficient crops to feed the populations. Their method startled modern investigators and created great respect and admiration for those ancients. A vast series of what appeared to be irrigation trenches of a particular design revealed that the sun-warmed water kept the plants warm enough to survive the deep frosts and thus support the population's food needs.

The 59-foot-tall Akapana resembles a large natural hill more than a pyramid. Closer inspection shows walls and columns sticking out from the base and carved stones on its summit and tumbling down the sides.

The somewhat amorphous shape of this tremendous pyramid is the result of centuries of looting and quarrying of its stones for colonial churches and even for a railway built in the 1900s. New research shows that this pyramid was never quite finished in antiquity.

At Tiwanaku we seem to have an interesting situation where the city's previous infrastructure was razed and completely redone just before the city was suddenly abandoned. It seems that around A.D. 700, three centuries into the existence of Tiwanaku as a monumental and powerful city, there was a sudden change to direct all construction efforts toward building what was the largest structure in the Andes. The previous monuments of the city were torn down and their stones reused to build the Akapana pyramid. The effort was too great, and the pyramid lay unfinished when the city was abandoned. One Spanish chronicler said of Tiwanaku, "They build their monuments as if their intent was never to finished them."

Around the rising pyramid, the arrangement of small single homes was replaced by large square compounds--also using the scavenged remains of previous monuments--serving perhaps as ritual places for powerful families or ethnic groups. What this change represents is unknown at the present. This could represent the rise of a powerful king, a popular religious movement, or the formation of a multicultural city. Whatever the cause behind this massive transformation, it didn't last long. By A.D. 950 all monumental construction suddenly ends with stones in various stages of dressing scattered around the partially built monuments.


In the News ...

Treasures found inside Bolivian pyramid

MSNBC - May 2, 2007

Archaeologists have uncovered the 1,300-year-old skeleton of a ruler or priest of the ancient Tiwanaku civilization, together with precious jewels inside a much-looted pyramid in western Bolivia. The bones are in very good condition and belong to either a ruler or a priest, Roger Angel Cossio, the Bolivian archaeologist who made the discovery, told Reuters on Wednesday. He said the tomb containing a diadem and a fist-sized carved pendant of solid gold survived centuries of looting by Spanish invaders and unscrupulous raiders who depleted Tiwanaku of many precious treasures.

"After so much looting ... miraculously this has stayed to tell us the history," Cossio said. "It's a complete body... next to it are jewels, offerings and a llama." The llama may have been a status symbol or a source of food for the journey to the afterlife, archaeologists said. The corpse was found in a niche carved inside the 15-yard-high (15-meter-high) Akapana pyramid, which was built around 1200 B.C. and is described by experts as one of the biggest pre-Columbian constructions in South America. At its peak, the city of Tiwanaku stretched over 1,480 acres (600 hectares) and had a population of more than 100,000, according to chief archaeologist Javier Escalante, who presented the findings on Wednesday at a news conference near the pyramid.

The Tiwanaku civilization spread throughout southwestern Bolivia and parts of neighboring Peru, Argentina and Chile from around 1500 B.C. to A.D. 1200. Although experts still have to do carbon dating to determine the age of the remains, archaeologists estimate they were buried 1,300 years ago, during the decline of the Tiwanaku empire. Cossio believes the remains belong to someone of importance in the Tiwanaku society. "Not just anyone would be buried under the Akapana pyramid," he said. In the 1900s, workers used the base of the pyramid as a quarry from which they extracted stones to build a rail line connecting the neighboring town of Guaqui with La Paz.


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